39 Days to Mars Review

By Megan Walton, 29 days ago
ID@Xbox puzzlers aren't lacking in variety, but one thing that is still fairly rare is such games with couch co-op. 39 Days to Mars has made the jump from Steam to Xbox to try and help change that. The game offers a great challenge provided you both gamers possess enough patience and determination.

Quickest trip to Mars ever

The game's story is a simple one that sees you joining two characters on a journey to Mars, beginning on the ground and making their way up in their ship. Unfortunately, parts of the ship keep breaking down every few days, and it's your job to fix them and make sure you make it to the red planet. Their journey takes 39 days, but the game itself will only take you an hour or so at most to run through the first time. Whilst a seemingly short play time initially, there are lots of different options for each decision you come across on your journey. With achievements linked to most, you'll need to play through the game quite a few times in order to get the full completion, dramatically increasing the play time to a reasonable amount.

The puzzles you come face to face with on your journey vary in difficulty, but all are fairly difficult, made more so by the fact you don't really have any instructions for any of them. It begins as a case of trial and error as to what to do, ultimately needing a little bit of luck and a little bit of skill to get them solved. They balance on the line between annoyingly difficult and challenging enough to keep you playing. The variety at least is appealing, as all the puzzles are unique. Whether you're matching up wires, catching space jellyfish or simply making a cup of tea, nothing is as easy as it sounds. The game has a sweet aged look, with basic drawings mapping out the world on the sepia coloured back setting. This feels fitting considering the game is set in the 19th century.

When you play in co-op mode — which is what the game is designed for — you each take control of a character's hand when you go into the puzzle, able to grab and move things as needed. Trying to communicate with a partner well enough to complete the puzzles is not an easy task as you need to take into account angles and balance amongst other things. Getting a smidge of butter on a scone or making a tea taste sweet and milky needs concentration from both players. This isn't a game you can just pick up and play when you have some downtime to relax; it requires some hard work and brain power, which is worth bearing in mind.

Who knew making a cuppa was so complicated?Who knew making a cuppa was so complicated?

Playing the game in solo mode is somehow both harder and easier than co-op. Having control of both the hands means that the need for communication during the puzzles is gone, but trying to figure out which hand you want where and which way to move it can get a little overwhelming at times. Also, some of the puzzles require good memory, and I actually ended up taking pictures of the things I had to remember in order to solve the puzzle. Between fighting off a space kraken, mining for coal and cleaning up the ship, you might eventually get to Mars. All of the puzzles you do can be solved or failed, and some of them have different choices too, making things more interesting for a second, third or fourth playthrough.

The game should get easier each time you run through it, and to complete the achievement list you'll have to do so several times. Completing most of the main tasks will earn you an achievement, and making it to Mars in one piece will earn you another. After you've finished the game in both solo and co-op mode, you'll have to either solve all the puzzles or fail them all, then do a playthrough in less than 30 minutes. Altogether the list is easy enough but will require a lot of concentration and a little bit of retreading.

Summary

With unique and tricky puzzles, 39 Days to Mars will feel right at home in any puzzle fan's game collection. The simplistic art style allows the puzzles to remain the focus of the experience. The choice of solo or co-op mode is ideal but the controls are slightly awkward, making things a little off-putting in both modes. While not perfect, 39 Days to Mars is a great time filler when you and a friend want to put your brains to the test for a few hours.
3.5 / 5
39 Days to Mars
Positives
  • Unique puzzles to solve
  • Simplistic art style allows the puzzles to be the focus
  • Smartly built around couch co-op
Negatives
  • Controls are awkward in both modes
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent a number of hours journeying to Mars, making cups of tea and scones along the way, unlocking 11 of the game's 23 achievements. A download code was provided for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Megan Walton
Written by Megan Walton
Megan is a TA newshound and reviewer who has been writing for the site since early 2014. Currently working in catering, she enjoys cooking extravagant dishes, baking birthday cakes for friends and family in peculiar shapes, writing depressing poetry about life and death, and unlocking every achievement possible.